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'I have to look at the entire economy': Vancouver mayor defends controversial spending decisions

Last Updated May 28, 2020 at 6:36 pm PDT

Summary

Mayor Kennedy Stewart was repeatedly asked about hiring a new social media coordinator at a cost of about $95,000

This comes at a time about 1,800 city employees have been laid off

City council also voted to cut sanitation costs by $130,000

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver’s mayor stands by recent changes to the city’s spending despite some criticism over a new position.

Speaking at city hall Thursday, Kennedy Stewart was repeatedly asked to justify creating a position that will cost taxpayers at least $95,000 a year.

Stewart defended plans to hire a social media coordinator for the city manager’s office, saying the job hasn’t been filled yet.

“We narrowly averted laying off another thousand and all our budgets are in flux. The person you’re talking about is one position out of the ten thousand that we hire here has not been hired. We’re doing our best to keep the city safe and get the economy back on track,” he says.


“You’re talking about a potential hiring of $95,000 dollars. I can understand how, in these circumstances, you may want to focus on a small part of the budget, but I have to look at the entire economy. In this city, communicating with good citizens is very, very important, especially when all of us are physically distancing.”

The city’s communications department has more than 40 staff.

Stewart also says he’s fully aware it’s happening at a time when 1,800 workers have been temporarily laid off.

“We have ten thousand employees and you’re just talking about one position,” he says. “I am very concerned about social disorder in the city. I’m very concerned about sanitation. I’m very concerned about rising crime levels.”

On Wednesday night, city council also approved a $130,000 cut to the street sanitation budget, and earlier this month, Vancouver Police were told their funding would be reduced at least one per cent.

Some city councillors are critical of a decision to cut funding for street sanitation.

RELATED: ‘Tone deaf’ for council to spend $95,000 on social media coordinator hire as thousands out of work: councillor

Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung argues it doesn’t reflect what people want.

“It just is tone-deaf, and it doesn’t send the right message. I think it’s really indicative of council meeting to listen to the people we serve and hearing the fact it is a tough time lead by example,” she says. “I just think it’s the wrong decision at the wrong time.”

-With files from Jonathan Szekeres